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SportsColumnistsBob Glauber

Jets' defense must share guilt for 1-4 start

The Green Bay Packers' Jordy Nelson gets away

The Green Bay Packers' Jordy Nelson gets away from the Jets' Calvin Pryor (25) and Dee Milliner for an 80-yard touchdown catch during the second half of a game Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Green Bay, Wis. Credit: AP / Mike Roemer

Already reeling from a 1-4 start and dealing with the fallout from Geno Smith's on-field and off-field issues, the Jets now have the unenviable task of facing future Hall of Fame quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in back-to-back games.

It wasn't so long ago that beating Manning and then Brady seemed equally far-fetched, but in fact, the Jets did just that. On the road, no less. And with a second-year quarterback.

Remember the playoffs after the 2010 season, when the Jets upset the Colts, 17-16, in the AFC wild-card round before Mark Sanchez got the best of Brady's Patriots, 28-21, in the divisional round?

Remember when ESPN asked Bart Scott -- a burning, churning chunk of intensity after the completion of that unlikely daily double -- about the prospect of facing the Steelers in the AFC Championship Game and he yelled "Can't wait!"

Those were some heady moments for the Jets, and in retrospect, they likely will go down as the high point for Rex Ryan, whose future as their coach is on shaky ground. If he loses back-to-back games to Manning and Brady, it's almost impossible to conceive of the Jets getting out of a 1-6 quagmire.

Ryan no longer talks in boastful terms about beating either team -- or any team, for that matter -- the way he once did. Back in January 2011, he was guaranteeing a Super Bowl run; now he's reduced to offering self-deprecating comments about how Manning will be sure not to miss the team bus for Sunday's game at MetLife Stadium.

Such is the state of this year's team with this year's young quarterback. But it's also a reflection of an even more troubling issue for the Jets' sixth-year coach.

For most of Ryan's run with the Jets, he has been able to rely on his main calling card -- a dominant defense -- to carry him through, especially with a struggling young quarterback.

But that's no longer the case, and that's why it's difficult to see the Jets getting out of their early-season funk, especially with games against the 38-year-old Manning, who remains at the top of his game, and the 37-year-old Brady, who overcame a shaky first month by throwing for 292 yards and two touchdowns against the Bengals last week.

About the best Ryan could do in describing his defense this year was to call the unit "decent." But that was before last week's 31-0 meltdown in San Diego, where Philip Rivers carved up the Jets' secondary.

The Jets are ranked a respectable No. 6 overall in yards allowed (320.8), but the more troubling stat is points allowed. Only 11 teams have allowed more than the Jets' average of 25.4 points per game.

They have been particularly ineffective on third downs, with opposing teams converting a whopping 47 percent of their chances. Only seven teams are worse. In the red zone, things are even more troublesome; the Jets have allowed opponents to convert nearly three out of four attempts (73.3 percent).

"We've got to get off the field," Ryan said. "That's usually a strength of ours. Obviously, it's been a real killer for our football team, not just on defense but for our team."

It's particularly troublesome when you've got a quarterback whose own problems have greatly contributed to the Jets' brutal start. Ryan once could rely on a dominating defense to cover the warts of his young passers -- remember, Sanchez had plenty of issues in the two years the Jets went to the AFC Championship Game -- but that luxury no longer exists.

And you can't blame all of the problems on the secondary -- an area of concern entering the season that was further complicated by Dmitri Patterson's premature departure in training camp and a spate of early-season injuries. The Jets have what should be one of the best front sevens in football, but that has proved not to be the case through five games.

So you can blame Smith all you want -- and yes, there's plenty there to pick apart, with his play, his expletive directed toward a fan two weeks ago and his failure to attend a team meeting last weekend. But this miserable start goes way beyond the quarterback, and Ryan knows it.

The Jets' defense -- Ryan's defense -- is just as complicit in their last-place getaway.

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